JMTC bids farewell to Peter Haley
Soon after he came to Jamaica in 1962, Peter Haley set about establishing himself as a part of Jamaican theatre. As an actor and director, he became not only a part, but a major part, of the scene. In another
couple of weeks Haley will be returning to England to live with his daughter in Cornwall.
He will be missed.
Just how much was evident from the testimonials of many of his friends, protÈgÈs and theatre colleagues last Saturday. They were speaking at a farewell function put on at the Alhambra Inn by the Jamaica Musical Theatre Company (JMTC), of which Haley has been a long-time vice-chairman.
Singer/actress Stephanie Hazle, who joined the JMTC's junior arm, the Jamaica Junior Theatre (JJT), when she was nine years old, admitted that she and her fellow child performers always looked forward to hearing Haley praise their rehearsal efforts with his usual "fantastic!"
After her spoken tribute, Hazle led the gathering in singing Edelweiss from The Sound of Music. Haley played the male lead, Captain Von Trapp, in a 1982 JMTC production.
Another singer/actress, Jodi HoLung, host of the function, reminded the gathering that the Haley-Bennett duo was responsible "for shaping the lives of many young performers", some of whom have gone on to have careers in entertainment. (The Bennett she was referring to is the JMTC chairman since 1981, Douglas Bennett.)
One JJT actress who has turned professional singer, Keisha Patterson, also sang her tribute. Her choice was The Circle of Light from The Lion King, one of the approximately 25 productions Haley directed for the JJT. Many - perhaps most of them - won Actor Boy Awards.
David Tulloch, one of the stars of The Lion King and now one of the island's busiest theatre practitioners (he produces, directs, writes and acts), thanked Haley for starting him off in his chosen profession. Tulloch, who has taken over from Bennett as the main producer of JMTC's musicals, is currently in rehearsals for the next show. Essentially a revamped version of the Broadway hit Les Miserables, it is scheduled for an August opening at the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts, University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona.
Actor/singer Cecil Cooper told the gathering that Haley has always been an integral part of his theatre career, and mentioned acting alongside Haley in The Merry Widow (1968). In Cooper's opinion, it was "one of the best shows ever produced by the JMTC".
Scene of fame
Many-time female lead in JMTC productions, Pat Gooden, also paid tribute to Haley's work with the company. But it was Bennett who gave the major tribute to the man who, in 1996, became the fourth inductee into the JMTC Hall of Fame.
"As a slim, young lad from England, Peter joined us in 1962 (at the time the company was still the Jamaica Amateur Operatic Society) and appeared as a juror in the company's sixth production," said Bennett. "In March this year he sang a solo in the JMTC's 159th production."
Bennett said that Haley became quite famous in Annie Get Your Gun (1976) and also The Sound of Music, "especially because of his love scenes with the lovely Dawn-Marie Virtue".
The JMTC chairman pointed out that Haley's theatre involvement was not confined to the JMTC and JJT. He was at one time in a Little Theatre Movement (LTM) production and was directed by outstanding practitioners such as Norman Rae, Lloyd Reckord and Paul Methuen.
Haley acted in 15 shows and was involved in a total of 52 productions, as actor, director or singer, in 51 years, said Bennett. He got a Best Actor nomination for his role in the Edna Manley College School of Drama's production of Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw and was nominated for Best Director three times.
"He's been my vice-chairman for 21 years," said Bennett. "Peter, you'll be sorely missed by many, most of all by me."
After the gathering sang So Long, Farewell from The Sound of Music, a clearly moved Haley spoke briefly. "Thanks to all of you from the bottom of my heart," he said. "I've enjoyed my time in Jamaica, especially my time with the JMTC and Jamaica Junior Theatre."
And after what, in the circumstances, was an appropriate dramatic pause, he added: "Of course, I can always come back."